Austin Hopp: Ex-cop who injured elderly woman with dementia during arrest gets 5 years in jail
"This case is not about a mistake," State District Judge Michelle Brinegar stated. "I do think you are sorry, but I don’t think you get it."
Former Colorado police officer Austin Hopp was sentenced to five years in prison on Thursday, May 5 for harming an elderly woman with dementia during an arrest in 2020. After pleading guilty to charges related to Karen Garner's arrest on June 26, 2020, Hopp, a former Loveland police officer, appeared in a Larimer County court. According to a federal lawsuit, officers knocked Garner, who was 73 at the time, to the ground and hogtied her.
Hopp used his "position of power and authority to show off his toughness, disregard any sense of humanity, displayed an alarming degree of criminal thinking and caused a great deal of harm and trauma," according to State District Judge Michelle Brinegar. "This case is not about a mistake," Brinegar stated before delivering the sentence. "I do think you are sorry, but I don’t think you get it." Hopp was also given a three-year obligatory parole sentence.
Garner was arrested after allegedly stealing $14 worth of merchandise from a local Walmart. Garner has dementia and sensory aphasia, according to her lawyer, which limits her capacity to vocally converse with others and understand what others are saying. Garner forgot to pay for the things because of her dementia, according to the attorney, and they were retrieved by Walmart staff. As she walked home, Hopp told Garner to stop and talk to him, according to a bodycam video shared by the attorney. In the footage, Garner can be seen shrugging her shoulders as she walks.
Hopp then hauled Garner to the ground and handcuffed her. As he escorted her toward a police cruiser, a second officer, Daria Jalali, came and assisted. They were seen struggling to get Garner into the back of the automobile in the video. According to the footage, Hopp told Jalali to assist him in putting Garner down. Later, he hogtied her by the ankles and forced her into the car.
According to the lawsuit, Garner sustained a dislocated shoulder, a fractured arm, and a sprained wrist for which the city settled for $3 million in September 2021. Hopp and other officers at the police station were seen laughing and joking about the arrest in a second video obtained by the attorney. In March, he accepted a plea offer for the assault charge, which was disputed by Garner's family.
Before the punishment was handed down, Garner's son, John Steward, spoke to the court. Hopp "never even took a moment to ask questions or assess the situation," Steward said. "Instead of assessing the situation further, he immediately grabbed her arm behind her back and threw her to the ground," Steward stated. "That's not ever how I should see my mom being treated."
Steward described Hopp as "callous" and "insensitive" for making fun of the arrest. He claimed, "He took pride in humiliating my mom." Hopp expressed his regret to the Garner family and said he was "truly sorry." "I made a terrible mistake that day," he admitted.
Hopp retired from the police force in April 2021. Jalali and Tyler Blackett, two fellow officers, also left the force, although it's unclear if they resigned or were dismissed. Charges against Jalali include official misconduct and failing to stop or report Hopp's acts. Her next court date is June 22, according to Denver's NBC affiliate KUSA.